12 Thrilling Facts About Rear Window

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Alfred Hitchcock taught us all the dangers of spying on your neighbors with Rear Window, the critically-acclaimed thriller that was released on September 1, 1954. The single-set movie concerns L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies, a photojournalist stuck in his apartment thanks to a broken leg. He accidentally witnesses what he thinks is a murder, but must prove to the police, his nurse Stella, and his girlfriend Lisa that he isn't just imagining things.

Rear Window features performances from Hitchcock regulars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly and couture costumes from fashion icon Edith Head. But before you settle in for 112 minutes of claustrophobia, here are a few facts about the movie’s gossip-laden production.

1. THE ORIGINAL STORY DOESN’T INCLUDE LISA OR STELLA.

Grace Kelly and Thelma Ritter in 'Rear Window' (1954)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Rear Window was based on Cornell Woolrich's short story, “It Had to Be Murder.” In Woolrich’s version, the voyeuristic protagonist does not have a girlfriend or a nurse, although he does have a “day houseman” named Sam who checks in on him. Oh and his leg injury? It isn't explicitly mentioned until the very last line.

2. ALFRED HITCHCOCK WAS INSPIRED BY TWO ACTUAL MURDER CASES.

Although John Michael Hayes wrote the screenplay for the movie, Hitchcock helped with the actual crime at the center of the story. As he told François Truffaut, he lifted two news items from the British press: the 1910 case of Dr. Hawley Crippen and the 1924 case of Patrick Mohan. Crippen killed his wife, told friends she went to America, and then aroused suspicion by flaunting his secretary around town. Police later found body parts in the Crippen home and arrested the doctor for murder. (Some now believe Crippen was innocent.) Mohan also dismembered his pregnant girlfriend, throwing pieces of her body out a train window. But he didn’t know what to do with her head, and it was this gruesome detail that inspired Hitchcock to include a plot thread about digging up the neighbors’ flower bed for evidence.

3. GRACE KELLY TURNED DOWN THE LEAD IN ON THE WATERFRONT TO STAR IN REAR WINDOW.

In the fall of 1953, Grace Kelly was offered the female lead in two films: one was Rear Window, the other was Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront. Although she was dying to work with Hitchcock again, On the Waterfront would’ve allowed Kelly to stay in New York, which she preferred to Los Angeles. Still, she ultimately chose to play socialite Lisa Fremont over blue-collar Edie Doyle. Instead, the part went to Eva Marie Saint, who would become a Hitchcock blonde herself with North by Northwest.

4. HITCHCOCK MODELED THE VILLAIN ON A PRODUCER HE HATED.

Hitchcock had a long-standing grudge with his former producer, David O. Selznick. The director believed Selznick had meddled too much with his movies, so much so that Hitchcock effectively disowned his first film with the producer, Rebecca. His ties to Selznick ended with the 1947 movie The Paradine Case, though, so Hitch decided to enact a sly bit of revenge onscreen. It involved Raymond Burr, the actor playing Rear Window villain Lars Thorwald. Hitchcock gave Burr glasses just like Selznick’s and curly gray hair to match. He also instructed Burr to adopt many of the producer’s mannerisms, such as the way he cradled a telephone in his neck. When all was said and done, Burr’s murderous character looked a lot like Selznick, no doubt to the producer’s supreme annoyance.

5. JIMMY STEWART’S WIFE DIDN’T WANT HIM TO MAKE A MOVIE WITH KELLY.

Before she was Princess Grace of Monaco, Grace Kelly had a reputation (whether true or not) for having affairs with her male costars—even the married ones. One of those men was Ray Milland, whose spurned wife just happened to be good friends with Jimmy Stewart's wife, Gloria. Gloria was less than thrilled at the prospect of her husband working with Kelly, and developed a bit of paranoia. According to True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess, Gloria was on set constantly, watching for signs of an affair. Nothing materialized, although Rear Window cast member Thelma Ritter confirmed that Kelly was a huge flirt. “I think it took [Stewart] back to his fancy-free, footloose bachelor days,” she said. “I don’t say he flirted, but he didn’t seem to mind it, either.”

6. “MISS TORSO” WAS A TEENAGE BALLERINA.

Georgine Darcy in 'Rear Window' (1954)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Georgine Darcy was 17 years old when she was cast as “Miss Torso,” Jeff’s dancing neighbor. Hitchcock picked her out of a pile of publicity photos; hers apparently caught his eye because she had paid extra for color prints. Darcy was fairly new in town, having left her home in Brooklyn just the year before to pursue ballet in California. So when Hitchcock met her, he suggested she get an agent. She didn’t, though, and was subsequently paid just $350 for her work. (That’s about $3150 in today's dollars.)

7. THE “SONGWRITER” WAS ALSO ONE IN REAL LIFE.

Ross Bagdasarian played the pianist neighbor who is frequently seen composing new pieces. The credits bill him as “The Songwriter,” which is pretty appropriate, considering what Bagdasarian did when he wasn’t acting. He was also a pianist and composer himself, and made his name by creating Alvin and the Chipmunks. But before he recorded “The Chipmunk Song” in 1958, he helped Hitch with his Rear Window cameo. Watch the Songwriter’s apartment and you’ll see a portly fellow winding his clock.

8. JEFF AND LISA’S ROMANCE IS SUPPOSEDLY BASED ON A REAL INGRID BERGMAN FLING.

Rumor has it that Jeff and Lisa were based on war photographer Robert Capa and Ingrid Bergman. The pair dated while Bergman was filming Notorious with Hitchcock in 1946, so he saw the relationship firsthand. The affair ended within a year, but it clearly struck a chord with Hitchcock, who had what many described as an "acute, unrequited passion" for Bergman. Like Jeff, Capa was a photojournalist who lived in Greenwich Village. And in a particularly eerie twist of fate, they both suffered leg injuries while on the job.

9. THE ELABORATE SET COST SERIOUS CASH.

Grace Kelly and James Stewart in 'Rear Window' (1954)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The apartment complex seen in Rear Window was completely constructed on the Paramount Studios lot—and it cost a pretty penny. It reportedly cost an “unprecedented” $9000 to design and $72,000 to build. (About $728,805 total, when adjusted for inflation.) The final set included seven apartment buildings and three other buildings on the other side of the street. It also boasted 31 apartments, although only a handful were fully furnished.

10. IT’S THE ONLY FILM WHERE KELLY SMOKES ON-SCREEN.

Kelly refused to smoke cigarettes in her movies, but she made a slight exception for Hitchcock in Rear Window. In one scene, she’s seen with an unlit cigarette between her lips. The camera cuts to Stewart, then back to her. She’s suddenly holding a lit cigarette, which she soon puts out. This way, Hitchcock got his smoking scene, while Kelly never technically broke her rule.

11. HITCHCOCK DELIBERATELY MISDIRECTED HIS ACTORS FOR LAUGHS.

Each neighbor has a hook: Miss Torso is a dancer, Miss Lonelyhearts is severely single, the Songwriter is, well, a songwriter. Then there’s that random couple sleeping on the fire escape. Actors Sara Berner and Frank Cady played the unnamed pair, who spend most of the movie fidgeting on a mattress outdoors without incident. Until it rains. For this scene, Hitchcock intentionally messed with his actors. He told Berner to pull the mattress one way and Cady to pull it the other. Neither one knew the other had received conflicting directions. So when Hitchcock called "action," the pair struggled with the mattress until Cady accidentally flew into the window. Hitchcock thought it was so funny, he kept it in the movie.

12. THE BOOK LISA READS AT THE END IS A FINAL WINK.

In the final scene of Rear Window, Lisa is seen reading the book Beyond the High Himalayas by William O. Douglas. Douglas was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1939 through 1975, but Lisa wasn’t skimming that book for legalese. Douglas suffered from polio as a child, and was told by doctors that he would be crippled for life. But after taking up hiking, Douglas discovered that a) he could definitely walk and b) he loved nature. He wrote a few books about his adventures as an ode to the great outdoors. Beyond the High Himalayas was one of them.

10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that in 2016 Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. To celebrated the film's 15th anniversary, here are some facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. Deb is based on Jerusha Hess.

Jared Hess’s wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.'"

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. "The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me," she told Rolling Stone. "Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before."

2. Napoleon's famous dance scene was the result of having extra film stock.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”

Heder told HuffPost he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt "pressure" to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. Napoleon Dynamitefans still flock to Preston, Idaho to tour the movie's locations.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. Idaho adopted a resolution commending the filmmakers.

'Napoleon Dynamite' filmmakers Jerusha and Jared Hess
Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. Napoleon was a different kind of nerd.

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told HuffPost. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. The title sequence featured several different sets of hands..

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. Napoleon Dynamite messed up Netflix's algorithms.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. Napoleon accidentally got a bad perm.


© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LaFawnduh's real-life family starred in the film.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A short-lived animated series acted as a sequel.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

Harry Potter Fans Are Waiting 10 Hours or More to Ride Hagrid’s Roller Coaster

Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando

Muggles will do anything to be a part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Orlando opened up its newest ride this week at its version of Hogsmeade, the village that surrounds Hogwarts castle. Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure takes wannabe wizards and witches on a twisting, high-speed flight through the mystical Forbidden Forest.

Diehard fans began waiting overnight outside the park in anticipation of the ride, and it looks like just about everyone had the same idea. At 8:30 a.m. on opening day, the line was already eight hours long, and quickly stretched to 10 hours long by 10:30 a.m., CNN reports.

The line is worth the wait for many fans of the franchise. As Potterheads already know, Rubeus Hagrid, beloved friend of Harry Potter and the gang, has a special affinity for mysterious creatures. So who better to see the beasts of the forest with than the half-giant?

Participants on the ride can choose to sit in Hagrid’s sidecar or in the driver’s seat. The winding track includes appearances by some of our favorite wizards, like Arthur Weasley, and creatures benevolent and otherwise, such as Cornish pixies, massive spiders, and the three-headed dog, Fluffy.

Fans aren’t the only ones wanting to experience the ride. Some of the stars of the film series had a little reunion in Orlando this week to celebrate the opening, including Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood).

Unlike the fans, however, they have magic (fame) to keep them from having to wait in 10-hour lines.

Happy riding, Potterheads!

[h/t CNN]

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